Saturday, January 31, 2009

California's 'Green Jobs' Experiment Isn't Going Well?

California's 'Green Jobs' Experiment Isn't Going Well, by Stephen Moore
WSJ, Jan 31, 2009

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was all smiles in 2006 when he signed into law the toughest anti-global-warming regulations of any state. Mr. Schwarzenegger and his green supporters boasted that the regulations would steer California into a prosperous era of green jobs, renewable energy, and technological leadership. Instead, since 2007 -- in anticipation of the new mandates -- California has led the nation in job losses.

The regulations created a cap-and-trade system, similar to proposed federal global-warming measures, by limiting the CO2 that utilities, trucking companies and other businesses can emit, and imposed steep new taxes on companies that exceed the caps. Since energy is an input in everything that's produced, this will raise the cost of production inside California's borders.

Now, as the Golden State prepares to implement this regulatory scheme, employers are howling. It's become clear to nearly everyone that the plan's backers have underestimated its negative impact and exaggerated the benefits. "We've been sold a false bill of goods," is how Republican Assemblyman Roger Niello, who has been the GOP's point man on environmental issues in the legislature, put it to me.

The environmental plan was built on the notion that imposing some $23 billion of new taxes and fees on households (through higher electricity bills) and employers will cost the economy nothing, while also reducing greenhouse gases. Almost no one believes that anymore except for the five members of the California Air Resources Board (CARB). This is the state's air-quality regulator, which voted unanimously in December to stick with the cap-and-trade system despite the recession. CARB justified its go-ahead by issuing what almost all experts agree is a rigged study on the economic impact of the cap-and-trade system. The study concludes that the plan "will not only significantly reduce California's greenhouse gas emissions, but will also have a net positive effect on California's economic growth through 2020."

This finding elicited a chorus of hallelujahs from environmental groups. The state finally discovered a do-good policy that pays for itself. Californians can still scurry around in their cars, heat up their Jacuzzis, and help save the planet. But there was a problem. The CARB had commissioned five economists from around the country to critique this study. They panned it.

Harvard's Robert Stavins, chairman of the federal Environmental Protection Agency's economic advisory committee under Bill Clinton, told me that "None of us knew who the other reviewers were, but we all came up with almost the same conclusion. The report was severely flawed and systematically underestimated costs." Another reviewer, UCLA Prof. Matthew E. Kahn, a supporter of the new regulations, criticized the "free lunch" aspect of the report. "The net dollar costs of each of these regulations is likely to be much larger than is reported," he concluded. Mr. Stavins points out that if these regulations are a net boon for businesses and the economy, "why would you need to impose regulations like cap and trade?"

The Sacramento Bee, which has editorialized in support of the new regulations, was aghast at CARB's twisted science. We have to "be candid about the real costs of the transition," a cautionary editorial advised. "Energy prices will rise, and major capital investment will be needed in public transit and new transmission lines. Industries that are energy intensive will move elsewhere."

The green lobby has lectured us for years that global warming is all about the sanctity of science. Those who question the "scientific consensus" on catastrophic atmospheric changes are belittled as "deniers." Now, in assessing the costs, the greens readily cook the books and throw good science out the window. "To most of the most strident supporters of this legislation," says Mr. Niello, "the economic costs don't really matter anyway, because we are supposedly facing an environmental apocalypse."

Mr. Schwarzenegger fits into that camp. He recently declared: "I recommend very strongly that we move forward . . . . You will always have people saying this will lose jobs."

Meanwhile, the state is losing jobs, a lot of them. California's unemployment rate hit 9.3% in December, up from 4.9% in December 2006. There are now 1.5 million Californians out of work. The state has the fourth-highest housing foreclosure rate in the nation, has lost more businesses than any state in recent years, and is facing a $40 billion deficit. With cap and trade firmly in place, the economic situation is only likely to get worse.

Other states are plundering the Golden State's industries by convincing businesses to pick up stakes and move out before the cap-and-trade earthquake hits. Governors and Washington politicians who want to reduce their "carbon footprint," but are worried about the more immediate crises of cascading unemployment, unbalanced budgets, and the housing-market collapse, would be wise not to follow California's lead. Green policies have a tendency to push states into the red.

Mr. Moore is senior economics writer for the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

Conservative views on BHO's executive orders & unions

Obama pays his union dues, first installment. By Scott Johnson
PowerLine Blog, Jan 31, 2009

The New York Times reports that President Obama signed three executive orders pleasing to unions. The Times quotes Obama directly addressing the union officials at the White House ceremony: "Welcome back to the White House." The Times summarized the substance of the orders in one paragraph:

The orders Mr. Obama signed, which union officials say will undo Bush administration policies that tilted toward employers, make it more difficult for federal contractors to discourage union activities. And when a federal contract changes hands, the new contractor will be required to offer jobs to workers who were employed by the earlier contractor.

And that's that, as far as the Times is concerned. It seems highly doubtful that Times reporter David Stout has bothered to read the orders or ask anyone what kind of sense they make. Interested readers will have to look elsewhere for addtional information.

The orders have been posted here by Carter Wood at the Manhattan Institute's site. Wood's Saturday morning update notes:

Judging by the metadata of one file, one of the regulations was written by the SEIU's legal counsel, or associate general counsel, Craig Becker -- although he may have gone to work for the Administration. (See this post.) Remember all those headlines from eight years ago along the lines of "White House lets business lobbyists write the law?"

What sense do these orders make? The Times frames the story as Obama taking a swipe at Bush, consistent with Obama presentation of them at the White House ceremony. Times reporter David Stout is discreetly silent about Obama's debt to organized labor. The orders are Obama's downpayment on the debt.

The orders are couched in terms of government economy. Unions are of course well known for their contribution to economic efficiency. Mickey Kaus actually took the trouble to track down the text of the order requiring a contractor to retain the old workers when a federal contract changes hands, to borrow the Times's formulation. Kaus quotes from the order:

The Federal Government's procurement interests in economy and efficiency are served when the successor contractor hires the predecessor's employees. A carryover work force reduces disruption to the delivery of services during the period of transition between contractors and provides the Federal Government the benefits of an experienced and trained work force that is familiar with the Federal Government's personnel, facilities, and requirements.

Kaus displays a bad attitude toward the order. You might say he doesn't take it at face value:

[W]hat if the contract got switched because the previous work force, you know, sucked? ... P.S.: For example, the Obama administration itself can be seen as having won a new contract to perform the same Federal services, at the same location, as the previous contractor, the Bush Administration. Did Obama keep all of Bush's employees in order to reduce "disruption" and enjoy "the benefits of an experienced and trained work force that is familiar with the Federal Governments ... facilities"? I don't think so! ...

Kaus aptly calls the orders "the labor payoff of the day." It's a point that seems to have escaped the Times.

Conservative views on Samantha Power, self-proclaimed "genocide chick"

Soft Power Comes to Washington, Part Two. By Paul Mirengoff
PowerLine blog, January 30, 2009 Posted by Paul at 11:35 PM

Samantha Power's substantive views on foreign policy, including her stridently anti-Israel positions and attitude, make her a poor choice for the senior foreign policy position President Obama has bestowed upon her. Yet there has always been reason to suspect that Obama shares many of these positions, including quite possibly her antipathy towards Israel. At a minimum, I think it's fair to say that Obama wants Power's views to be part of the discussion he hears. And as president, that's his prerogative.

But there's a second objection to Power that has nothing to do with her substantive views. Power's book tour of last March -- "The Book Tour From Hell" -- strongly suggests that she lacks the maturity, judiciousness, and seriousness to hold a senior position in the field of foreign affairs.

During the course of the tour, as I observed at the time, Power took on something of a "rock star" persona. As I also cautioned, it was difficult, at least initially, to tell whether (or to what extent) this was Power's doing. One could easily imagine that the British press was projecting this image on to Power, given her gender, physical appearance, and close relationship to the ultimate rock star, Barack Obama.

Before long, though, it became apparent that Power was, indeed, on a "rock star" trip. As I wrote:

She seemed to cultivate an "edgy" image, using the "f" word during interviews and making candid off-the-cuff negative assessments of Secretary Rice and Gordon Brown (never mind the comment about Hillary Clinton which arguably should have been kept off-the-record by the interviewer), along with vaguely offensive remarks such as "so much of [the discussion] is about: 'Is [Obama] going to be good for the Jews?'" Most telling of all, perhaps, was her self-proclaimed status as "the genocide chick."

The comment in which she expressed her disappointment with England's head of state [sic] -- "I am confused by what's happened to Gordon Brown. I thought he was impressive" -- by itself showed her to be loose cannon. And calling Hillary Clinton a "monster" was too much even for Obama at the time. If, as Obama concluded, Power was too much of an embarrassment to continue to play a role in the campaign, what sense does it make to give her a senior position in the government? Does Obama take campaigning more seriously than he takes governance? It speaks poorly of Obama that he values Power's views, and just as poorly that he deems her temperamentally suited for anything other than perhaps an informal advisor's role.

Former NASA Supervisor says Hansen ‘Embarrassed NASA’ & ‘Was Never Muzzled’

James Hansen’s Former NASA Supervisor Declares Himself a Skeptic
Says Hansen ‘Embarrassed NASA’ & ‘Was Never Muzzled’
House, Environment & Public Works Committee, Minority blog, Jan 27, 2009

Washington DC: NASA warming scientist James Hansen, one of former Vice President Al Gore’s closest allies in the promotion of man-made global warming fears, is being publicly rebuked by his former supervisor at NASA.

Retired senior NASA atmospheric scientist Dr. John S. Theon, the former supervisor of James Hansen, NASA’s vocal man-made global warming fears soothsayer, has now publicly declared himself a skeptic and declared that Hansen “embarrassed NASA” with his alarming climate claims and said Hansen was “was never muzzled.” Theon joins the rapidly growing ranks of international scientists abandoning the promotion of anthropogenic global warming fears. [See: U.S. Senate Minority Report Update: More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims & See Prominent Scientist Fired By Gore Says Warming Alarm ‘Mistaken’ & Gore laments global warming efforts: 'I've failed badly' - Washington Post – November 11, 2008]

“I appreciate the opportunity to add my name to those who disagree that global warming is man-made,” Theon wrote to the Minority Office at the Environment and Public Works Committee on January 15, 2009. “I was, in effect, Hansen's supervisor because I had to justify his funding, allocate his resources, and evaluate his results. I did not have the authority to give him his annual performance evaluation,” Theon, the former Chief of the Climate Processes Research Program at NASA Headquarters and former Chief of the Atmospheric Dynamics & Radiation Branch explained. [Note: Here are the results a Google Scholar search on Theon. - Theon's complete written correspondence to EPW reprinted at the end of this report. ]

“Hansen was never muzzled even though he violated NASA's official agency position on climate forecasting (i.e., we did not know enough to forecast climate change or mankind's effect on it). Hansen thus embarrassed NASA by coming out with his claims of global warming in 1988 in his testimony before Congress,” Theon wrote. [Note: NASA scientist James Hansen who runs NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) has created worldwide media frenzy with his dire climate warnings, his call for trials against those who dissent against man-made global warming fear, and his claims that he was allegedly muzzled by the Bush administration despite doing 1,400 on-the-job media interviews - See: Don’t Panic Over Predictions of Climate Doom - Get the Facts on James Hansen & UK Guardian: NASA scientist calls for putting oil firm chiefs on trial for 'high crimes against humanity' for spreading doubt about man-made global warming – June 23, 2008 & NYT's Revkin chides Hansen for promoting sea level claims that are at upper boundary of what is 'even physically possible' (Note: Headline re: Revkin and Hansen corrected)]

Theon declared “climate models are useless.” “My own belief concerning anthropogenic climate change is that the models do not realistically simulate the climate system because there are many very important sub-grid scale processes that the models either replicate poorly or completely omit,” Theon explained. “Furthermore, some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results. In doing so, they neither explain what they have modified in the observations, nor explain how they did it. They have resisted making their work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists. This is clearly contrary to how science should be done. Thus there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy,” he added.

“As Chief of several of NASA Headquarters’ programs (1982-94), an SES position, I was responsible for all weather and climate research in the entire agency, including the research work by James Hansen, Roy Spencer, Joanne Simpson, and several hundred other scientists at NASA field centers, in academia, and in the private sector who worked on climate research,” Theon wrote of his career. “This required a thorough understanding of the state of the science. I have kept up with climate science since retiring by reading books and journal articles,” Theon added. (LINK) Theon also co-authored the book Advances in Remote Sensing Retrieval Methods.

Hansen 'is a political activist who spreads fear'

Award-winning NASA Astronaut and Physicist Walter Cunningham of NASA’s Apollo 7 also recently chastised Hansen. “Hansen is a political activist who spreads fear even when NASA’s own data contradict him,” Cunningham wrote in an essay in the July/August 2008 issue of Launch Magazine. “NASA should be at the forefront in the collection of scientific evidence and debunking the current hysteria over human-caused, or Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). Unfortunately, it is becoming just another agency caught up in the politics of global warming, or worse, politicized science,” Cunningham wrote.

[Note: Theon joins many current and former NASA scientists in dissenting from man-made climate fears. A small sampling includes: Aerospace engineer and physicist Dr. Michael Griffin, the former top administrator of NASA, Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology and is formerly of NASA, Geophysicist Dr. Phil Chapman, an astronautical engineer and former NASA astronaut, Award-Winning NASA Astronaut/Geologist and Moonwalker Jack Schmitt, Chemist and Nuclear Engineer Robert DeFayette was formerly with NASA’s Plum Brook Reactor, Hungarian Ferenc Miskolczi, an atmospheric physicist with 30 years of experience and a former researcher with NASA's Ames Research Center, Climatologist Dr. John Christy, Climatologist Dr. Roy W. Spencer, Atmospheric Scientist Ross Hays of NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility]

Gore faces a much different scientific climate in 2009 than the one he faced in 2006 when his film An Inconvenient Truth was released. According to satellite data, the Earth has cooled since Gore’s film was released, Antarctic sea ice extent has grown to record levels, sea level rise has slowed, ocean temperatures have failed to warm, and more and more scientists have publicly declared their dissent from man-made climate fears as peer-reviewed studies continue to man-made counter warming fears. [See: Peer-Reviewed Study challenges 'notion that human emissions are responsible for global warming' & New Peer-Reviewed Scientific Studies Chill Global Warming Fears ]

“Vice President Gore's and the other promoters of man-made climate fears' endless claims that the 'debate is over' appear to be ignoring scientific reality,” Senator James Inhofe, Ranking Member of the Environment & Public Works Committee.

A U.S. Senate Minority Report released in December 2008 details over 650 international scientists who are dissenting from man-made global warming fears promoted by the UN. Many of the scientists profiled are former UN IPCC scientists and former believers in man-made climate change that have reversed their views in recent years. The report continues to grow almost daily. We have just received a request from an Italian scientist, and a Czech scientist to join the 650 dissenting scientists report. A chemist from the U.S. Naval Academy is about to be added, and more Japanese scientists are dissenting. Finally, many more meteorologists will be added and another former UN IPCC scientist is about to be included. These scientists are openly rebelling against the climate orthodoxy promoted by Gore and the UN IPCC.

The prestigious International Geological Congress, dubbed the geologists' equivalent of the Olympic Games, was held in Norway in August 2008 and prominently featured the voices of scientists skeptical of man-made global warming fears. Reports from the conference found that Skeptical scientists overwhelmed the meeting, with '2/3 of presenters and question-askers hostile to, even dismissive of, the UN IPCC' ( See full reports here & here ] In addition, a 2008 canvass of more than 51,000 Canadian scientists revealed 68% disagree that global warming science is “settled.” A November 25, 2008, article in Politico noted that a “growing accumulation” of science is challenging warming fears, and added that the “science behind global warming may still be too shaky to warrant cap-and-trade legislation.” More evidence that the global warming fear machine is breaking down. Russian scientists “rejected the very idea that carbon dioxide may be responsible for global warming”. An American Physical Society editor conceded that a “considerable presence” of scientific skeptics exists. An International team of scientists countered the UN IPCC, declaring: “Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate”. India Issued a report challenging global warming fears. International Scientists demanded the UN IPCC “be called to account and cease its deceptive practices.”

The scientists and peer-reviewed studies countering climate claims are the key reason that the U.S. public has grown ever more skeptical of man-made climate doom predictions. [See: Global warming ranks dead last, 20 out of 20 in new Pew survey. Pew Survey: & Survey finds majority of U.S. Voters - '51% — now believe that humans are not the predominant cause of climate change' - January 20, 2009 - Rasmussen Reports ]

The chorus of skeptical scientific voices grow louder in 2008 as a steady stream of peer-reviewed studies, analyses, real world data and inconvenient developments challenged the UN’s and former Vice President Al Gore's claims that the "science is settled" and there is a "consensus."

On a range of issues, 2008 proved to be challenging for the promoters of man-made climate fears. Promoters of anthropogenic warming fears endured the following: Global temperatures failing to warm; Peer-reviewed studies predicting a continued lack of warming; a failed attempt to revive the discredited “Hockey Stick”; inconvenient developments and studies regarding rising CO2; the Spotless Sun; Clouds; Antarctica; the Arctic; Greenland’s ice; Mount Kilimanjaro; Global sea ice; Causes of Hurricanes; Extreme Storms; Extinctions; Floods; Droughts; Ocean Acidification; Polar Bears; Extreme weather deaths; Frogs; lack of atmospheric dust; Malaria; the failure of oceans to warm and rise as predicted.

You can check Theon’s complete written correspondence to EPW here.

BHO: weekly address

Moving forward
White House blog, Saturday, January 31st, 2009 at 4:45 am

In the weekly address, President Barack Obama addressed the latest economic news and urged the passing of an America Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.

He also announced that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is preparing a new strategy for reviving our financial system -- which will not only ensure that CEOs aren't abusing taxpayer dollars, but also get credit flowing and lower mortgage costs.

Watch the address and read the full text below.

Address to the nation

This morning I'd like to talk about some good news and some bad news as we confront our economic crisis.

The bad news is well known to Americans across our country as we continue to struggle through unprecedented economic turmoil. Yesterday we learned that our economy shrank by nearly 4 percent from October through December. That decline was the largest in over a quarter century, and it underscores the seriousness of the economic crisis that my administration found when we took office.

Already the slowdown has cost us tens of thousands of jobs in January alone. And the picture is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Make no mistake, these are not just numbers. Behind every statistic there's a story. Many Americans have seen their lives turned upside down. Families have been forced to make painful choices. Parents are struggling to pay the bills. Patients can't afford care. Students can't keep pace with tuition. And workers don't know whether their retirement will be dignified and secure.

The good news is that we are moving forward with a sense of urgency equal to the challenge. This week the House passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, which will save or create more than 3 million jobs over the next few years. It puts a tax cut into the pockets of working families, and places a down payment on America's future by investing in energy independence and education, affordable health care, and American infrastructure.

Now this recovery plan moves to the Senate. I will continue working with both parties so that the strongest possible bill gets to my desk. With the stakes so high we simply cannot afford the same old gridlock and partisan posturing in Washington. It's time to move in a new direction.

Americans know that our economic recovery will take years -- not months. But they will have little patience if we allow politics to get in the way of action, and our economy continues to slide. That's why I am calling on the Senate to pass this plan, so that we can put people back to work and begin the long, hard work of lifting our economy out of this crisis. No one bill, no matter how comprehensive, can cure what ails our economy. So just as we jumpstart job creation, we must also ensure that markets are stable, credit is flowing, and families can stay in their homes.

Last year Congress passed a plan to rescue the financial system. While the package helped avoid a financial collapse, many are frustrated by the results -- and rightfully so. Too often taxpayer dollars have been spent without transparency or accountability. Banks have been extended a hand, but homeowners, students, and small businesses that need loans have been left to fend on their own.

And adding to this outrage, we learned this week that even as they petitioned for taxpayer assistance, Wall Street firms shamefully paid out nearly $20 billion in bonuses for 2008. While I'm committed to doing what it takes to maintain the flow of credit, the American people will not excuse or tolerate such arrogance and greed. The road to recovery demands that we all act responsibly, from Main Street to Washington to Wall Street.

Soon my Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, will announce a new strategy for reviving our financial system that gets credit flowing to businesses and families. We'll help lower mortgage costs and extend loans to small businesses so they can create jobs. We'll ensure that CEOs are not draining funds that should be advancing our recovery. And we will insist on unprecedented transparency, rigorous oversight, and clear accountability -- so taxpayers know how their money is being spent and whether it is achieving results.

Rarely in history has our country faced economic problems as devastating as this crisis. But the strength of the American people compels us to come together. The road ahead will be long, but I promise you that every day that I go to work in the Oval Office I carry with me your stories, and my administration is dedicated to alleviating your struggles and advancing your dreams. You are calling for action. Now is the time for those of us in Washington to live up to our responsibilities.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Libertarian views on global warming: "Al Gore’s Climate of Extremes"

Al Gore’s Climate of Extremes, by Patrick J. Michaels
Planet Gore/NRO, Friday, January 30, 2009

Ho-hum. On January 28, in the midst of a pelting sleet storm, Al Gore told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the end is nigh from global warming.

He told the Senate that “some scientists” predict up to 11 degrees of warming in the next 91 years (while failing to note that the last 12 have seen exactly none), and that this would “bring a screeching halt to human civilization and threaten the fiber of life everywhere on earth”. Hey folks, this is serious!

Besides having a remarkable knack for scheduling big speeches on remarkably cold or snowy days (it’s known as the “Gore Effect” in journalistic circles), Gore has been incredibly ineffective in bringing his message home.

According to the New York Times, Gore told the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco last November, “I feel, in a sense, I’ve failed badly. . . . [T]here is not anything anywhere close to an appropriate sense of urgency [about global warming]. This is an existential threat.”

And fail he has. The Pew Foundation recently asked Americans to choose which of 20 prominent issues is of most importance. They included the economy, crime, education, and, of course, global warming, which came in dead last.

Gore’s failure is his own fault. He gained a reputation for exaggeration during his 2000 campaign, and he’s unable to shake it—because he’s proud of it, saying that it’s just fine to emphasize extreme global warming scenarios because they get people’s attention. Telling people you’re exaggerating isn’t exactly the way to get street cred. In Washington on January 28, his campaign continued.

The fact is that the “fiber of life” can be found on this planet over a range of 140°F, from Antarctica to the Death Valley. People actually live in these places. The average temperature of the planet is about 61°, a temperature at which Homo sapiens au naturel will die from hypothermia. So ask yourself if raising the temperature 11 (impossible) degrees will indeed bring civilization to a “screeching halt.”

It’s not like the press is very vigilant, either. A couple of years ago, he got a free pass on Larry King Live (May 22, 2007) after making at least seven exaggerations or outright misstatements on climate change in less than a minute.

Gore fielded a call asking “what issues caused by climate change globally are likely to affect the United States security during the next ten years?” He responded, “you know, even a one-meter increase, even a three-foot increase in sea level would cause tens of millions of climate refugees.”

In ten years? The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), hardly an apolitical body (the IPCC’s “lead authors” are all appointed by their governments), gives an average sea-level rise of 1.25 inches in the next ten years for its “midrange” temperature scenario. Never mind that it hasn’t warmed since 1997 and that sea-level rise is clearly slowing as a result.

Gore went on: “Today, 49 percent of America is in conditions of drought or near-drought”, and that “the odds of serious droughts increase when the average temperatures go up.”

That’s a testable hypothesis. The history of U.S. drought back to 1895 is readily available from the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina, as is the history of global temperature. Although surface temperatures have risen about 1.4 degrees since 1900 (with maybe half of that a result of emissions of carbon dioxide), there’s no similar trend in U.S. drought. Gore had to know that.

In the same minute, he droned on about how in a hotter world, “agriculture in the United States would be greatly affected.”

Thanks, Al, for another assertion subject to analysis. The slight rise in surface temperature was accompanied by a 500 percent increase in United States yield of corn (that’s the amount we produce per acre). How could any possible warming in ten years put a dent in that? The IPCC projects about 0.3 degrees of warming per decade now, or about a fifth of the total warming of the last 100 years. That’s going to “greatly affect” agriculture?

People notice these exaggerations. They see that food is still on the table (despite the government’s attempt to burn it up as ethanol). They know the country isn’t particularly dry, nor particularly wet. They can go to the beach and see that the ocean isn’t notably higher than it was before.

In other words, Gore’s lack of penetration is a result his own exaggerations. He’s created a climate of extremes that people are simply tired of, which is why his issue ranks dead last. He’s right. He’s failed.

— Patrick J. Michaels is senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute and author of the forthcoming Climate of Extremes: Global Warming Science They Don’t Want You to Know.

Does The Ledbetter Law Benefit Workers, Or Lawyers?

Does The Ledbetter Law Benefit Workers, Or Lawyers? By Stuart Taylor Jr.
Democrats and the media have distorted the facts underlying the new equal-pay law.
National Journal, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009

This has been a good week, and may be a good year, for lawyers, civil-rights groups and others who think that America needs many more lawsuits to combat what they portray as pervasive job discrimination against women, minorities, the elderly, and the disabled.

Things are not going so well for those of us who fear that the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which President Obama co-sponsored as a senator and signed on Thursday, and other job discrimination bills in the congressional pipeline may be bad for most workers and may benefit mainly lawyers.

These measures seem likely to make it harder than ever for employers to defend themselves against bogus (as well as valid) discrimination claims, effectively adding to the cost of each new hire.

This would be justified if job discrimination were indeed pervasive. But the evidence suggests otherwise. Study after study has, for example, cast grave doubt on what appears to be the myth that sex discrimination in the workplace remains rampant more than 40 years after Congress adopted one law broadly banning job discrimination and another requiring equal pay for women and men doing equal work.

Congressional Democrats, liberal groups, and the media have thoroughly distorted the facts underlying the Ledbetter law to advance their agenda of opening the door wide to all manner of job-discrimination lawsuits.

The new law will virtually wipe out the 300-day time limit (180 days in Alabama and some other states) during which employees can file claims of discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Disgruntled employees will now be free to wait many years before hauling employers into court for supposedly discriminatory raises, promotions, or any other actions affecting pay.

The longer the wait, the more difficult it will be for the employer to contest an employee's one-sided and perhaps false account of the case, because key witnesses may have retired or died and records such as performance evaluations may have been discarded.

Indeed, some of the Ledbetter law's vague language could be construed as opening the doors for people to sue a company even years after retiring, on the theory that each new pension check is too small because of some claim of discrimination by some long-since-departed (or dead) supervisor.

This law represents an overreaction to a May 2007 Supreme Court decision, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., that provoked an explosion of ill-informed media outrage and propelled the losing party, retired Goodyear employee Lilly Ledbetter of Alabama, to a speaking role at last year's Democratic National Convention.

The 5-4 decision reasonably (if debatably) held that the 180-day time limit for Ledbetter to file her Title VII claim had started running with the most recent act of intentional discrimination that affected her pay in the ensuing years. Ledbetter had argued -- and the new law now provides -- that the 180-day clock should restart with each new paycheck.

For this, the conservative majority was widely reviled as having denied any remedy to Ledbetter, because employees often don't know what their co-workers are paid and thus might not learn that they are victims until more than 180 (or 300) days after the supposed discrimination occurred.

But some critical facts -- ignored by the media and Congress -- belie their portrayal of the case, as detailed in my June 9, 2007, column.

First, Ledbetter waited more than five years after learning that she was paid substantially less than most male co-workers to file her Title VII claim for back pay, compensatory, and punitive damages. Second, by that time a key supervisor -- whom she belatedly accused of holding down her pay raises after she rejected his sexual advances -- had died. Third, Ledbetter chose not to pursue a claim under the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which has a much longer time limit (three years) than Title VII but does not (yet) provide for big-bucks damage awards.

Fourth, her years of poor performance evaluations, plus repeated layoffs that affected her eligibility for raises, convinced a federal magistrate judge (although not the jury) that her relatively low pay did not prove sex discrimination. Maybe Ledbetter was a victim of discrimination, as the jury found. Maybe not. The evidence is too stale to allow for a confident conclusion -- which is one reason the justices ruled against her.

That said, it would have been reasonable for Congress to amend Title VII by specifying (as some lower courts have held) that the clock does not start running until the employee is or should be aware that she is earning less than co-workers.

Instead, Congress chose to shift the balance dramatically against employers by effectively eliminating time limits for filing all manner of discrimination claims that have some impact on pay.

Another bill that may reach President Obama is the House-passed Paycheck Fairness Act. Its confusingly worded amendments to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 seem designed -- or at least likely -- to force pay raises for women who have never been victims of anything that most people would call discrimination.

The bill would, for example, expose an employer to liability for paying a woman less than a man in a similar job unless the employer can convince a jury that the differential is "job related" and "consistent with business necessity" -- and also that no "alternative employment practice exists that would serve the same business purpose."

What's that parade of nebulosities supposed to mean? I think it would invite judges and juries to go beyond providing remedies for real discrimination and to play Robin Hood by second-guessing justifiable pay disparities. It would force some employers who are entirely innocent of sex discrimination to settle unwarranted lawsuits.

An employer that has long paid higher salaries to employees with more experience or better scores on written tests of their job-related skills might be hit for a big damage award for failing instead to provide special training for inexperienced women or to use a different test.

A very big damage award, perhaps: The Paycheck Fairness Act would allow unlimited awards of both compensatory and (in cases of "reckless indifference") punitive damages. Other proposals likely to emerge during this Congress would eliminate the current caps on damages in Title VII lawsuits as well.

Worse, the Paycheck Fairness Act would allow lawyers to include masses of women who have little or no interest in suing in class-action lawsuits, excepting only those who go to the trouble of "opting out." This is a formula for lawyer-generated lawsuits to extort millions of dollars from companies without proving that they ever intentionally discriminated against anyone.

One of the myths underlying this bill is that, as then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York said on January 8: "It is disgraceful that... women in this country still earn only 78 cents on the dollar" earned by men.

No, it's not disgraceful. Nor is it true that "in many instances, the pay disparities can only be due to continued intentional discrimination or the lingering effects of past discrimination," as stated in the findings attached to the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Labor Department data and academic studies show that much of the male-female pay differential is explained by such factors as disproportionate child-rearing and caregiving responsibilities.These cut into women's working hours and motivate many to sacrifice higher pay for shorter hours and the flexibility to take career breaks.

The data also demonstrate that women who work 40 hours a week make 88 percent as much as men who work 40 hours. Economics professor June O'Neill of Baruch College reported in a 2003 article that the female-to-male wage ratio rises to 95 percent when other data -- on child-related factors, demographics, academic majors, work experience, and occupational characteristics -- are also taken into account. The "gender gap can be explained to a large extent by nondiscriminatory factors," O'Neill concluded.

"Men and women generally have equal pay for equal work now -- if they have the same jobs, responsibilities, and skills," wrote Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the conservative free-market Hudson Institute. She added, in a January 21 commentary published by Reuters, that the 5.9 percent unemployment rate for adult women is lower than the 7.2 percent for adult men.

This is not to suggest that sex discrimination is no longer a serious problem. I worry that my two daughters may run into the barriers that still lurk in some unknown percentage of workplaces. But I worry more that they and their peers will have a harder and harder time finding jobs in the first place if the government burdens employers with lawsuits that make it more and more expensive to bring in new hires.

In White House Blog: "Shameful"

White House, Thursday, January 29th, 2009 at 9:21 pm

$18 billion.

That’s what Wall Street bankers pulled down in bonuses over the past two months, according to a report from the New York State comptroller -- even as many of these institutions received billions in taxpayer dollars.

"That is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful," President Obama said today, following a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and the rest of the economic team.

Read the President’s full remarks below.

The White House, Oval Office
January 29, 2009

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's good to see you guys. I just had a terrific conversation with my Secretary of the Treasury, the Vice President, as well as the rest of our economic team, about the steps that we need to move forward on -- not only on the economic recovery and reinvestment package, but also on making sure that we begin the process of regulating Wall Street so that we can improve the flow of credit, banks start lending again, so that businesses can reopen, and that we can create more jobs -- but also to make sure that we never find ourselves in the kind of crisis that we're in again, that we've seen over the last several months.

And Secretary Geithner is hard at work on this process. We expect that even as the reinvestment and recovery package moves forward -- as I said, that's only one leg of the stool, and that these other legs of the stool will be rolled out systematically in the coming weeks so that the American people will have a clear sense of a comprehensive strategy designed to put people back to work, reopen businesses and credit flowing again.

One point I want to make is that all of us are going to have responsibilities to get this economy moving again. And when I saw an article today indicating that Wall Street bankers had given themselves $20 billion worth of bonuses -- the same amount of bonuses as they gave themselves in 2004 -- at a time when most of these institutions were teetering on collapse and they are asking for taxpayers to help sustain them, and when taxpayers find themselves in the difficult position that if they don't provide help that the entire system could come down on top of our heads -- that is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful.

And part of what we're going to need is for folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint and show some discipline and show some sense of responsibility. The American people understand that we've got a big hole that we've got to dig ourselves out of -- but they don't like the idea that people are digging a bigger hole even as they're being asked to fill it up.

And so we're going to be having conversations as this process moves forward directly with these folks on Wall Street to underscore that they have to start acting in a more responsible fashion if we are to together get this economy rolling again. There will be time for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses -- now is not that time. And that's a message that I intend to send directly to them, I expect Secretary Geithner to send to them -- and Secretary Geithner already had to pull back one institution that had gone forward with a multimillion dollar jet plane purchase at the same time as they're receiving TARP money. We shouldn't have to do that because they should know better. And we will continue to send that message loud and clear.

Having said that, I am confident that with the recovery package moving through the House and through the Senate, with the excellent work that's already been done by Secretary Geithner in consultation with Larry Summers and Paul Volcker and other individuals, that we are going to be able to set up a regulatory framework that rights the ship and that gets us moving again. And I know the American people are eager to get moving again -- they want to work. They are serious about their responsibilities; I am, too, in this White House and I hope that the folks on Wall Street are going to be thinking in the same way.

United States Humanitarian Support to Palestinians

United States Humanitarian Support to Palestinians
Media Note, Office of the Spokesman, US State Dept
Washington, DC, January 30, 2009

President Barack Obama has authorized the use of $20.3 million from the U.S. Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) Fund to address critical post-conflict humanitarian needs in Gaza. U.S. Government support for humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees and conflict victims now totals nearly $120 million in FY 2009, including nearly $60 million in Gaza.

Of the $20.3 million in new ERMA funds, $13.5 million will go to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), $6 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and $800,000 to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). These organizations are distributing emergency food assistance, providing medical assistance and temporary shelter, creating temporary employment, and restoring access to electricity and potable water to the people of Gaza.

Today’s contribution to UNRWA augments the $85 million the United States contributed in December 2008 toward UNRWA’s 2009 appeals. Of that amount, $25 million supported UNRWA emergency operations in West Bank and Gaza. The remaining $60 million supported UNRWA’s services for 4.6 million Palestinian refugees in the region, including Gaza. UNRWA is the largest provider of humanitarian aid in Gaza, providing 70 percent of the population with emergency food assistance, essential healthcare, and primary education. We are working to develop a longer-term reconstruction/development effort with international partners.

Furthermore, today’s contribution to ICRC complements the $9.7 million the United States provided earlier this month for ICRC’s activities for victims of conflict in the Middle East, with particular attention to its critical programs in Gaza. U.S. support of the ICRC buttresses the organization’s efforts to supply Gaza’s hospitals and clinics with urgently needed medical equipment, as well as to rehabilitate damaged water pumps and sanitation systems.

Finally, the U.S. contribution to OCHA supports its essential coordination activities for the Humanitarian Country Team, comprised of UN Agencies and non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

In addition to our contributions to UNRWA, ICRC, and OCHO, to date, USAID has provided more than $3.7 million for emergency assistance to Gaza. Food, milk powder, blankets, plastic sheeting, and other nonfood items have been distributed to beneficiaries, and the distributions are continuing. This assistance is distributed to beneficiaries through USAID’s implementing partners under six recently awarded grants ($250,000 each) to Mercy Corps, American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), CHF International, Relief International, Catholic Relief Services, and CARE International. Food distributions are done through USAID’s grant to the World Food Program (WFP).

The U.S. reiterates its support for humanitarian actors responding to emergency needs in Gaza and encourages other states to provide urgently needed funding to UNRWA, ICRC, WFP and other international and non-governmental organizations providing this lifesaving care to civilians in Gaza.


Washington Post Editorial: Guns in Virginia

Guns in Virginia. Washington Post Editorial
Lawmakers should close the gun show loophole.
Washington Post, Friday, January 30, 2009; A18

THE VIRGINIA Senate has an unprecedented opportunity today to begin to reverse the state's abysmal record on gun regulation.

For years, state lawmakers have defeated bills requiring vendors at gun shows to conduct background checks of would-be buyers. Yet such legislation squeaked by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee by an 8 to 7 vote this week and is poised for a vote in the full Senate. Politicians of both parties, including self-described gun rights advocates, should endorse this modest bill.

Licensed gun dealers in Virginia are required to conduct background checks on buyers, including those to whom they sell at gun shows. Yet, according to the Virginia State Police, up to 35 percent of vendors at the scores of gun shows throughout the state are unlicensed and thus are under no obligation to perform the checks. This makes no sense, and the public is put at risk because felons or the mentally ill are not screened out if they attempt to purchase guns.

The Senate bill would close this loophole by requiring that even unlicensed vendors -- often hobbyists who do not make their living from gun sales -- conduct these checks. To facilitate compliance, the bill calls for the gun show promoter to ensure that those who already hold federal licenses to sell firearms will conduct checks on behalf of unlicensed vendors. The bill does not require background checks for those purchasing antique guns or for those who have concealed-weapons permits.

Gun rights advocates won a stunning victory last year before the U.S. Supreme Court when a majority of the justices determined that the Second Amendment bestows an individual right to keep and bear arms. Before this ruling, many advocates worried that gun control activists would use regulation to effectively ban gun ownership. Those worries should have been put to rest by the court's decision. There is no longer any legitimate reason for lawmakers to resist sensible provisions to ensure that only law-abiding citizens exercise this right. And the bill to require background checks by all vendors is but a minor inconvenience that respects gun-ownership rights while keeping weapons out of the hands of potentially dangerous people.

Tennekes on Real Climate

Real Climate Suffers from Foggy Perception, by Henk Tennekes
Climate Science, January 29, 2009 @ 7:00 am


Roger Pielke Sr. has graciously invited me to add my perspective to his discussion with Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate. [...]

A weather model deals with the atmosphere. Slow processes in the oceans, the biosphere, and human activities can be ignored or crudely parameterized. This strategy has been very successful. The dominant fraternity in the meteorological modeling community has appropriated this advantage, and made itself the lead community for climate modeling. Backed by an observational system much more advanced than those in oceanography or other parts of the climate system, they have exploited their lead position for all they can. For them, it is a fortunate coincidence that the dominant synoptic systems in the atmosphere have scales on the order of many hundreds of kilometers, so that the shortcomings of the parameterizations and the observation network, including weather satellite coverage, do not prevent skillful predictions several days ahead.

A climate model, however, has to deal with the entire climate system, which does include the world’s oceans. The oceans constitute a crucial slow component of the climate system. Crucial, because this is where most of the accessible heat in the system is stored. Meteorologists tend to forget that just a few meters of water contain as much heat as the entire atmosphere. Also, the oceans are the main source of the water vapor that makes atmospheric dynamics on our planet both interesting and exceedingly complicated. For these and other reasons, an explicit representation of the oceans should be the core of any self-respecting climate model.

However, the observational systems for the oceans are primitive in comparison with their atmospheric counterparts. Satellites that can keep track of what happens below the surface of the ocean have limited spatial and temporalresolution. Also, the scale of synoptic motions in the ocean is much smaller than that of cyclones in the atmosphere, requiring a spatial resolution in numerical models and in the observation network beyond the capabilities of present observational systems and supercomputers. We cannot observe, for example, the vertical and horizontal structure of temperature, salinity and motion of eddies in the Gulf Stream in real time with sufficient detail, and cannot model them at the detail that is needed because of computer limitations. How, for goodness’ sake, can we then reliably compute their contribution to multi-decadal changes in the meridional transport of heat? Are the crude parameterizations used in practice up to the task of skillfully predicting the physical processes in the ocean several tens of years ahead? I submit they are not.

Since heat storage and heat transport in the oceans are crucial to the dynamics of the climate system, yet cannot be properly observed or modeled, one has to admit that claims about the predictive performance of climate models are built on quicksand. Climate modelers claiming predictive skill decades into the future operate in a fantasy world, where they have to fiddle with the numerous knobs of the parameterizations to produce results that have some semblance of veracity. Firm footing? Forget it!

Gavin Schmidt is not the only meteorologist with an inadequate grasp of the role of the oceans in the climate system. In my weblog of June 24, 2008, I addressed the limited perception that at least one other climate modeler appears to have. A few lines from that essay deserve repeating here. In response to a paper by Tim Palmer of ECMWF, I wrote: “Palmer et al. seem to forget that, though weather forecasting is focused on the rapid succession of atmospheric events, climate forecasting has to focus on the slow evolution of the circulation in the world ocean and slow changes in land use and natural vegetation. In the evolution of the Slow Manifold (to borrow a term coined by Ed Lorenz) the atmosphere acts primarily as stochastic high-frequency noise. If I were still young, I would attempt to build a conceptual climate model based on a deterministic representation of the world ocean and a stochastic representation of synoptic activity in the atmosphere.”

From my perspective it is not a little bit alarming that the current generation of climate models cannot simulate such fundamental phenomena as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. I will not trust any climate model until and unless it can accurately represent the PDO and other slow features of the world ocean circulation. Even then, I would remain skeptical about the potential predictive skill of such a model many tens of years into the future.

PPI on health savings accounts

Judgment Day for Health Care Consumerism. By David B. Kendall, PPI's senior fellow for health policy
Progressive Policy Institute, Jan 29, 2009

Conservative thinkers have touted medical savings accounts (later called health saving accounts) as the answer to the woes of U.S. health care. Twelve years after their first enactment in 1997, it's time to assess their success.

The judgment of two health care economists is that they have failed to solve the problem, yet they have not proven as bad as it their critics feared. Writing in Health Affairs, health economists James Robinson and Paul Ginsburg show how they have melded into the existing dysfunctional market dominated by managed care. They have ended up complementing managed care rather than replacing it.

A typical health savings account combines a high-deductible health insurance plan with a tax-free account for any money that a consumer doesn't use for health care. Initially, the idea was that patients would choose health care services directly from providers without any interference from an insurance company. Instead, most such plans use a network of doctors with whom insurance companies pre-negotiate prices and review the use of costly services.

Health savings accounts were supposed to put patients in charge of their health and health care, but instead employers and employees have opted for management services for chronic diseases. They have also incorporated prevention programs that provide employees with support services to encourage healthy habits.

Even with these embellishments, health savings accounts and similar programs have not grown large enough to change the entire health care marketplace. They have not proven popular enough to be a foundation for the kind of overhaul that health care needs. But they have contributed to the knowledge about what can and cannot reform health care.

Here is Robinson and Ginsberg's conclusion:

Health care should be consumer driven for reasons of both efficiency and ethics. When in possession of adequate information and faced with appropriate incentives, consumers make better choices for their own health than does any third party, be that third party motivated by the most praiseworthy of intentions. Moreover, as a matter of ethics, it is the patient and consumer, not the physician or insurer or employer or regulator, who should be vested with the right to make tradeoffs in the emotionally and sometimes spiritually charged domain of health care. That said, one must acknowledge that consumers often need support if their choices are to promote their well-being and constraint when they are spending other people's money. Health care is complex at best and not infrequently rife with nontransparent, anticompetitive, and even fraudulent behavior on the part of the many self-interested agents. Individual consumers can benefit from some of the efforts by governmental and employer sponsors, health insurance plans, provider organizations, and medical management programs. Consumers need others to create meaningful products and processes from which they can choose -- bundles of products and services that can be measured, priced, purchased, and used not only by the highly educated and motivated individual but by those who are sick and scared, of only modest means and financial sophistication.

Consumerism has a role in reform, but it won't work as an overriding ideology. It will take public action to enable private solutions that can truly solve the cost, quality, and access problems in U.S. health care. That's the platform that health care reform needs in 2009.

For more information:
Consumer-Driven Health Care: Promise And Performance, by James C. Robinson and Paul B. Ginsburg, Health Affairs, January 27, 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Conservative views: Opportunities exist to work with President Obama on space security

Securing Space, by Eric Sayers & Jeffrey Dressler
Opportunities exist to work with President Obama on space security.
Weekly Standard, Jan 29, 2009

As Washington remains engulfed in discussion over expected foreign policy shifts on hot-button issues like Iran and Afghanistan, one critical policy area that is primed for far-reaching modifications, yet receiving little attention, is the future of U.S. space security.

Critics of the Bush administration charge that his approach was as unproductive as it was controversial. The U.S. National Space Policy of 2006, including its dismissal of any legal regime to limit U.S. action in space; the January 2007 Chinese anti-satellite (ASAT) test targeting a weather satellite; and the February 2008 intercept of a damaged U.S. spy satellite have contributed to, or are the product of, an unnecessarily hostile approach to space security that has only served to make us less safe.

Thus, it's likely that the Obama administration will make a significant departure from the policies the Bush administration pursued. While recognizing the strategic importance of space, President Obama has chosen to offer the solution of an international treaty banning space weapons, or at the very least a discussion of "rules of the road" for space, as the solution for securing the nation's space assets. The feasibility of this policy and its desirability for U.S. interests has been widely questioned, perhaps most succinctly by the work of Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Although Tellis and others contend that this approach would be detrimental for U.S. security, elections have consequences and the direction President Obama chooses on space issues will be his to chart.

Those who may not agree with the approach the administration is likely to take would do well to identify and bolster support for programs that align with Obama's principles and can still play a beneficial role in securing America's access to space. Prominent amongst such initiatives are defensive-minded space systems, including the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program that aims to provide low-cost, miniaturized satellites that can be used to surge U.S. satellite capabilities or reconstitute those that have been damaged or destroyed.

President Obama recognizes that space is "critical to our national security and economy." This is an accurate and widely held view. The strength of America's military is reliant upon a constellation of satellites and corresponding ground installations that provide imagery, navigation, signal intelligence, communications, and early warning for missile launches. America's economy is similarly interconnected with a constellation of civilian satellites. However, as the military has placed a greater emphasis on networking the warfighter with the battlefield environment over the past two decades, this reliance has developed into a vulnerability.

Both the 2008 Annual Report to Congress on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China and the recently-released report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission cite how the People's Liberation Army (PLA) views America's dependence on space assets as its "soft ribs," a strategic weakness to be exploited in an effort to undermine the foundations of American military strength. The U.S.-China Commission determined that the extent of China's anti-satellite capabilities are "significant," to include not just direct-ascent weapons like that used in China's ASAT test of January 2007, but also the development of co-orbital direct attack weapons, directed energy lasers, and various technologies designed for electronic "denial-of-service" attacks.

Preserving America's military advantages, therefore, requires ensuring unfettered access to space. If China continues to develop asymmetric capabilities to target U.S. space assets, without the United States taking the necessary steps to dissuade and deter these actions, it will only increase China's likelihood of prevailing in a short-duration, high-intensity war. Such an outcome would be disadvantageous for the U.S.-Taiwan security relationship, specifically if the United States develops a sense of hesitancy that jeopardizes the credibility of cross-Straits deterrence. Additionally, a more capable PLA will enhance the confidence of Chinese leadership, increasing the chance of a political-military miscalculation by China in the Straits.

Whether or not President Obama will follow through on his broad promise to seek "a worldwide ban on weapons that interfere with military and commercial satellites" is an open question. At the very least, he has been forthright in announcing his opposition to the weaponization of space. Complicating this commitment, however, is the broad range of military and civilian space assets that can be qualified as a "space weapon." The most effective direct-ascent ASAT weapon the U.S. has in its arsenal is the Standard-Missile 3 -- demonstrated by the successful February 2008 shoot-down of an American spy satellite. The dual-use of this weapon will also pose a serious dilemma for getting a space treaty off the ground without also requiring America to forgo its missile defense capabilities. Therefore, whatever the outcome of an international space regime, the utility of the SM-3 and other ASAT weapons as a traditional deterrence mechanism vis-à-vis Chinese ASAT weapons is likely to be downplayed by the Obama administration.

While these unfortunate policy prescriptions are a cause for concern, hope may lie in the possible defensive space measures that President Obama seems poised to embrace. His campaign website and new White House website encouragingly discuss "accelerating programs to harden U.S. satellites against attack" and "establishing contingency plans to ensure that U.S. forces can maintain or duplicate access to information from space assets." One of the most promising initiatives for achieving these duel objectives is Operationally Responsive Space (ORS). ORS seeks to rapidly deliver short-term capabilities to the warfighter that serve to augment space-based national security assets through the use of low-cost Tactical Satellites. The ORS Office, stood up in 2007 at the Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, now stands at the forefront of an effort to revolutionize the way the U.S. builds and deploys satellites.

The standard process by which the military continues to construct satellites emphasizes large, time-consuming programs that maintain a slow generational turnover of 15 to 20 years, preventing an important military asset like space to be exploited at the operational level. Alternatively, miniaturized satellites enjoy both nimble and adaptive qualities. Compared to traditional stand-alone satellite, micro satellites can continuously be outfitted with the latest technological upgrades and be sent to replace their outdated counterparts. More importantly, they can be used to help increase capabilities to meet the demands of combatant commanders. Indeed, the ORS Office is working right now on an ambitious 24 month timetable to supply U.S. Central Command with a satellite to meet an identified gap in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets. Should this effort succeed, it will be a telling example of what the future holds for operationalizing the power of space.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of ORS is the capacity it offers to reconstitute satellites quickly and cheaply. If the administration remains reluctant to pursue active mechanisms for ensuring deterrence in space, ORS could be employed as part of an array of defensive systems to help guarantee U.S. access to space by dissuading and deterring the development and use of Chinese ASAT technologies. If the United States retains the ability to replenish satellite constellations on an as-needed basis, the benefits provided by costly ASAT weapons would be greatly diminished for the PLA.

Of course, this may have the unintended consequence of compelling PLA planners to devote resources to denial-of-service weapons or acquire even more direct-attack weapons in an effort to overwhelm America's reconstitution capabilities. Thus, it will be necessary to develop a multifaceted defensive regime to build reserve micro satellites and stockpile cheap launch vehicles like the Minotaur, harden existing and future satellites against electromagnetic pulse and jamming, and further integrate satellite capabilities with allies.

Considering the benefits of ORS, reports that the budget for the ORS Office may be slashed between fiscal year 2011 and 2014, are highly discouraging. More recent reports now have funding being restored in 2012, but with a likely tightening of defense budgets in the years ahead, the outlook for a program already being targeted to pay Department of Defense's bills is bleak.

Although the level of confidence President Obama is prepared to place in diplomatic solutions to preserve space access is a serious concern, there remains ample opportunity to secure his support in other vital areas. As the administration begins to formulate its policies on space security, the utility and broad support for the ORS concept should make it a core element of its strategy. Remedying the ORS budgeting shortfall before the fiscal year 2010 budget is submitted would be a strong statement to China that the administration is invested in securing America's space assets. While only part of the solution, establishing such a precedent will be a step towards ensuring that the advantages the military procures from space can be further refined and enhanced in the coming decades.

Eric Sayers is a national security research assistant at The Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. Jeffrey Dressler is an intern at The Heritage Foundation.

NY Soda Tax: All Politics, No Science

NY Soda Tax: All Politics, No Science. By Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., M.P.H.
American Council on Science and Health, Jan 29, 2009

Aiming to combat the obesity epidemic in New York, Gov. David Paterson has recommended an 18% tax on sugar-sweetened soft drinks and a few other sweetened beverages. Unfortunately, the proposed tax is inconsistent with the facts about what causes obesity. It also sets an alarming precedent for taxing foods deemed "bad" by government officials -- further increasing the cost of living in the state -- particularly for the least affluent citizens.

•First, there is no scientific basis for singling out sugar-sweetened soda and certain fruit drinks as a primary underlying cause of obesity. So many Americans these days far exceed their ideal weight because they consume too many calories from all types of foods and beverages -- and do not dedicate sufficient effort to burning calories through exercise. Sugar-sweetened sodas don't make you fatter than eating too much meat, bread, potatoes, or anything else. The old adage "for every complex problem there is a simple solution -- and it never works" comes to mind here. It is always easier to zero in on one alleged villain and assume the problem is solved.

•Second, taxing soda sets up a precedent for taxing myriad foods considered "bad" by popular wisdom. Can we expect taxes next on cake, cookies, candy, and pizza? If food with high sugar or fat content is "bad" and deserving of punitive regulatory action, to be consistent will we tax orange juice (very high in sugar) and avocados (a plentiful source of fat)? Should we tax everything except tofu and spinach?

•Third, when the soda tax is examined closely -- given that it will have zero net effect on reducing obesity -- it must be perceived as another attempt to raise revenue for a financially strapped state. The Governor estimates that the soda tax will bring in $404 million the first year and $539 million annually after that. What's not to like about that if you are trying to balance a budget? But the bad news is that this influx of cash has nothing to do with fighting obesity and enhancing health.

There is, however, some good news about the proposed soda tax: Polls show that New Yorkers oppose this useless and regressive tax by nearly a 2:1 margin. Presumably, citizens recognize that obesity is a very serious health risk -- requiring serious solutions, not quick, ineffective regulatory fixes.

Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan is President of the American Council on Science and Health (,

Energy Reduction and Environmental Sustainability in Surface Transportation

Energy Reduction and Environmental Sustainability in Surface Transportation. By Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D.Testimony to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, Massachusetts Joint Committee on Transportation
Reason Foundation, January 27, 2009

1. Overview

Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Duncan, members of the subcommittee, thank you for giving me this opportunity to discuss environmental sustainability and the future of transportation in the United States. This is a central issue as the federal government works toward its six-year authorization of transportation funding, and understanding the proper context for addressing environmental issues will be critical.

I would like to focus my remarks on two over-arching points:
  • Transportation policy that loses sight of mobility as a central goal puts our economic competitiveness at risk; and
  • Mobility is compatible with long-term goals of environmental sustainability.

2. Mobility and Economic Competitiveness

First, we must recognize the central purpose of transportation policy is to provide for and improve mobility for citizens and businesses. In other words, transportation policy is focused on finding effective ways to move people, goods, and services from point A to point B faster and cheaper. This central goal should not be minimized despite the more current concerns over the state of the national economy and the vigorous public discussion over the impending stimulus package. At the end of the day, transportation policy will continue to be about providing efficient, safe, and reliable mobility above all other policy goals or objectives, and the focus of reauthorization will inevitably move beyond the short-term politics surrounding the economic recession.

Importantly, mobility is the proper goal of transportation policy. Reason Foundation Vice President Adrian Moore and I explain the critical role mobility plays in ensuring our continued global competitiveness in our book Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive Economy. We summarize a growing body of research that shows empirically what urban economists have known for decades: Mobility is critical to national and urban economic success.

The reason is straightforward. Economic productivity improves when we lower the costs of production and make it easier for people to interact. Increased mobility gives workers access to an increasingly diverse number of jobs, and employers enjoy greater access to an increasingly large skilled and productive workforce. This is why congestion has such debilitating impacts on economic growth. As congestion increases, and costs of getting from point A to point B grow, production costs increase and the "opportunity circle" that includes access to markets, resources and jobs resources shrinks.

Thus, while transportation investments are critical to economic productivity and growth, job creation is an indirect impact of successful transportation policy and not a primary goal. This, in fact, is the lesson from the Interstate Highway program created in the 1950s. The central objective of this multibillion dollar program was to link the nation's largest urban centers and integrate them into a truly national transportation network. This goal served economic purposes as well as broader national goals of geographically unifying the nation (in much the same way railroads did in the 19th century) and providing for a more efficient national defense.

The economic impacts were enormous and tangible. The Interstate Highway System and upgrades to various state and regional roads boosted economic growth because these new roads reduced transportation costs dramatically, allowing businesses to improve productivity. Some of these effects, such as providing more efficient routes for long-haul freight movement, were intended. Reducing urban traffic congestion was another, less important goal successfully met, although few anticipated the decentralization of metropolitan areas that followed.

As we move forward thinking about transportation and sustainability, we also need to recognize the fundamental link between mobility, economic productivity, and economic growth.

3. Transportation and the Environment

The critical role transportation plays in economic growth and productivity does not obviate the need to consider the environmental consequences of our transportation investments, the environmental impact of different modes, or the way we use transportation facilities. On the contrary, as we become more aware of the environmental impacts of human activity, we have a responsibility to mitigate the negative effects. We have, for example, made tremendous strides toward improving our air quality even as our use of automobiles has increased dramatically. Air quality, by all metrics, has improved steadily in most U.S. urban areas since the early 1970s as a result of new technologies that lowered emissions while preserving the mobility implicit in automobile use. Indeed, rising economic productivity, and the increased wealth that comes with it, allows us to be even more creative and innovative in improving mobility in an environmentally responsible manner.

Thus, mobility and environmental protection can be complimentary goals. The key is to understand the right contexts in which these goals are pursued and choose strategies that allow for both to be achieved simultaneously. Environmental policy that explicitly or implicitly reduces mobility undermines the long term viability of our cities and national economy and, as a consequence, our ability to meet our long-term environmental policy goals.

A case in point is the role technology will play in meeting greenhouse gas targets. Preliminary findings of research being conducted by The Hartgen Group for Reason Foundation indicates that newly legislated fuel mileage standards will outstrip most other commonly proposed strategies for mitigating carbon dioxide by large margins (see Table 1). In an analysis of greenhouse gas trends in 48 urbanized areas, current trends suggest that without mitigating strategies, CO2 will increase 52 percent by 2030. The new CAFÉ mandates recently enacted by Congress will reduce CO2 by 31.2 percent by 2030. In contrast, increasing the price of fuel to $5 per gallon would only reduce emissions by about 4 percent. The combined effect of increasing the transit share of work trips by 50 percent, increasing the walk to work share by 50 percent, and increasing telecommuting would reduce CO2 emissions by just 2.5 percent.

Notably, the new fuel mileage mandates are also more cost-effective, averaging about $52 per ton removed, and meet the McKinsey & Company benchmark reported in Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: How Much at What Cost? In contrast, most other strategies are significantly more costly. Physical capacity improvements, increasing transit's mode share, and reducing overall travel by raising the gas tax are expected to cost close to (or more than) $4,000 per ton removed.

4. Environmental Mitigation Strategies and Mobility

Each of these greenhouse gas mitigation strategies has different impacts on mobility and, as a result, on our nation's productivity. Increased fuel mileage mandates do not impact our nation's mobility although they have somewhat smaller impacts on the costs of using specific types of cars and trucks. If the mandates are modest and provide enough of a lead time, they can allow consumers and private suppliers to make choices about what technologies and modes of transport are most efficient for achieving transportation goals. This, combined with the independent decisions of millions of Americans to purchase more fuel efficient automobiles, can increase productivity and mitigate greenhouse gases.

In contrast, policies that attempt to directly reduce travel have an adverse impact on mobility and impinge on our economic productivity by reducing the opportunity circles accessible by employers, workers, and households.

A few quick illustrations make this point. Portland, Oregon's Tri-Met operates perhaps the most successful rail transit system in place among mid-size (and smaller) U.S. cities. Sixty-four light rail transit stations are part of a regional transit network that covers an urban area of 474 square miles and serves 1.2 million people according to the National Transit Database. Yet, these transit stations account for just 22 square miles, or about 5 percent of the regional service area. Even with the more compact urban form created in part by a mandated regional growth boundary, Tri-Met's ability to influence regional urban form and travel patterns is limited to the immediate area around the transit stations.

Arlington, Virginia provides another example. Arlington hosts some of the nation's most robust transit-oriented developments, using a large volume heavy rail system to support development at Metro stations around Ballston and Courthouse Square on the Orange Line and Pentagon City and Crystal City on the Blue Line. The eleven Metro stations represent about 8 percent of the county's land area. About 20 percent of the county's population lives within walking distance (1/4 mile) of one of these Metro stops. Among those within walking distance, however, the private automobile still captures more than half, and often two-thirds or more, of total trips. Thus, in Arlington, rail transit is used by just 5-10 percent of the county's population. Notably, transit's share of total travel in the Washington, DC urban area remains around 7 percent.

The point, however, is not to criticize transit. On the contrary, transit plays a vital role along key corridors in many urban areas and enhances mobility for many. Rather, transit's role in meeting environmental policy goals needs to be kept in context.

Despite recent gains in ridership, public transit remains a relatively small part of the overall travel equation in most major urbanized areas in the U.S. Notably, higher gas prices contributed to a reduction in road travel by 100 billion vehicle miles traveled in 2008, according to the Federal Highway Administration, a fall of about 4 percent. Public transit experienced an increase of about 5 percent. Yet, because transit carries a very small portion of travel, transit was able to capture just 3 percent of the overall decline in road travel.

In addition, the kinds of policies that will be necessary to fundamentally change land use to boost transit ridership significantly would require a dramatic and largely involuntary relocation of people and families into housing they do not want. The single-family, detached house would be an option only for the wealthier income brackets in our major urban areas, effectively inverting the existing distribution of home options and choices.

A policy that focuses largely on shifting travelers out of cars and into transit will reduce mobility. An examination of work trip travel times in 276 metropolitan areas found that the length of public transit trips exceeded those for private automobiles in 272 of those areas. On average, public transit riders spend about 36 minutes traveling to work while private automobile travelers commute about 21 minutes. This does not have to be the case. The innovative use of HOT Lanes, such as the networks being built in Northern Virginia and discussed in Atlanta, Houston, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Miami can finance critically needed road capacity while also providing viable bus rapid transit alternatives.

5. Sustainable Transportation Policy

Sustainable development policies call for a balancing of three goals: economic growth, the equitable use of resources, and environmental preservation. Transportation policy that undermines mobility compromises the productivity necessary to support better environmental stewardship.

What federal policy initiatives, then, can preserve the overarching goals of transportation policy to improve mobility while also recognizing the importance of meeting environmental goals?

First, achieving environmental goals will depend primarily on technological solutions, not broad-based changes in human behavior. The dramatic improvements in air quality in major urban areas is directly attributed to technological solutions, and the same will be true for addressing national greenhouse gas goals. Federal policymakers should resist attempts to directly use transportation policy to address broader environmental goals because it tends to be a very blunt and inefficient instrument.

Second, maintain mobility as the central goal of transportation policy. Policies that directly reduce mobility, including those designed explicitly to reduce vehicle miles traveled or direct commuters to alternatives that will lengthen commute times, should be avoided. While environmental concerns should play a role, federal objectives should include searching for and implementing win-win solutions.

Third, continue to put congestion reduction as a key priority for transportation policy and investments. Widespread traffic congestion places substantial burdens on businesses and individuals. Mitigating these effects should be a primary goal of transportation policy makers to ensure our cities and national economy remain competitive. Many congestion-mitigation strategies-HOT lanes, tolled facilities, capacity expansion-will also have environmental benefits, but their central purpose is to reduce transportation costs and improve economic productivity.
Fourth, aggressively move toward a transportation funding approach based on distance-based financing such as comprehensive road pricing. This approach would establish a more direct, transparent and accountable user-based funding system.

Thank you for your attention. I welcome any comments or questions members of the subcommittee may have.

Sam Staley is director of urban policy at Reason Foundation. He is co-author of Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008). An archive of Staley's work is here, and Reason's transportation research and commentary is here.